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article number 505
article date 11-24-2015
copyright 2015 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Faces On Our Farms, 1976, Part 3: The Farm Life

From the USDA 1976 Yearbook of Agriculture.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pictures are placed after the text which refers to the picture.

* * *

Farm families are close to the fundamentals of life. Births and death are continuous and obvious. So are work, the earth and the weather, joy and a profound sense of fulfillment.

Freedom and independence—within the limits imposed by Nature and the markets—are woven into the fabric of American farm life.

Farm life is work in the field-and caring for livestock.
- It’s doing the chores and cooking endless meals.
- It’s coming home from school or sitting in the shade of a vehicle to eat lunch.
- It’s having coffee with friends.

When the wives aren’t doing housework they are often outdoors helping their husbands. Sometimes they keep in touch by two-way radio.

For kids, the whole farm is a plaything. They can drive tractors or play with a score of pets.

Families not only live together but work and play together.

Farm people go at life with a big auger. After all, what’s life about? Enjoy it a little.

Four generations of Wrights in Enosburg, Vermont. Left to right: Melvin Wright, his great-grandson Dean, 7, his son Donald and Donald’s wife Ruth (with Brenda her granddaughter in front of her), Sharon, 9 . . .

Photo by Byron Schumaker.

. . . Amy Sue, 2, and the young children’s parents, Carroll and Darlene Wright.

Photo by Byron Schumaker.

For them, Vermont is a land of “milk and honey”, since dairying and maple sugaring are their way of life. Most of today’s farmers come from a line of farm people that trails off into the distant genealogical past.

Mail is a personal contact with the world beyond the farm boundaries. Mail for a lot of farmers, including the J. D. Pembertons, includes a community newspaper with an emphasis on family and local news.

Photo by Michelle Bogre.

Chores—sometimes deadly dull, physical but absolutely necessary—are a big part of farm life, especially for youngsters. Getting the cows lined up for milking is one of the chores of Marsha Petty, 14.

Photo by Michelle Bogre.

Dean Wright, 7, of Enosburg, Vermont wrestles an empty milk can. He’ll soon be doing chores with pride.

Photo by Byron Schumaker.

It’s one thing to pick cranberries, still another to get them to market. Mrs. Sam Schlegel and son, Brian, 5, of Long Beach, Washington are taking that first big step toward market together.

Photo by Earl Otis.

Farming is physical and meals are more than a ritual. The family refuels and gets a needed rest at mealtime. Mrs. Berrey and her daughter, Debbie, clean up the kitchen, while the menfolk are readying equipment outside for a late evening’s planting.

Photo by Bill Marr.

Pausing during a day of setting (transplanting) tobacco plants, the Charley Beaty family of Conway, South Carolina, and their helpers take time for a noon meal out of the sun. Left to right, the diners are Jessie Bellamy, Larry Young, Charley Beaty, Bernice Beaty, his wife, and Charley Beaty, Jr.

Photo by William Allard.

Breaks are welcome when the people who work the land and livestock can fit them in. Often it’s a food or water break—necessary to keep one’s energy up for more hours in the sun. When the work is pressing, farmers and ranchers often take their food with them rather than drive back home to eat. But when they can relax, they like nothing better than a big picnic outdoors.

Ranch women are just as good cowboys as the regular ranch hands. Mrs. Robert Mosher was right in the middle of the TEE Bar Ranch roundup in Colorado from cutting cattle in the corral to keeping the cowboys fed from the back of the Mosher truck-camper. With her, left, were Larry Fleming, Frank Dellwo and her son Roland.

Photo by Lowell Georgia.

Combining wheat is hot work and a patch of shade at lunchtime is welcome. Seated in the shade of a truck during a break in the harvest on their farm near Colton, Washington are Gerry Schultheis, his father, Carroll and Gerry’s grandfather, Jacob F. Schultheis.

Photo by Doug Wilson.

Farmers call the Jif E-Mart on U.S. 83 near La Feria, Texas their “country club.” They meet there for a morning break, swap information and do business, all for the price of a cup of coffee or a snack.

Photo by Cornelius Keyes.

Farm women have been toughened in the forge of hard work, Yet, they retain their charming femininity. Perhaps more completely than in any other walk of life, they enjoy a complete partnership in their husband’s business and way of life.

They share the grinding work, the simple joys, the unutterable sorrows, the tough decisions and the fulfilling successes of life on the farm. They make tremendous sacrifices. Yet hardly any of them would trade their lot for anything in town. Well, maybe on some days they would—and would just as quickly want to be back.

Modern farm wife Carole Lyons contacts her husband George by citizens band radio if something happens he should know about . . . perhaps an important phone call, piece of mail, or market report. She’s part of a communication system that includes the home of George’s brother, Bill, three cars (including that of a third brother, Ronnie), and a combine. Bill’s wife, Mary, is a vital link in the chain.

Photo by Michelle Bogre.

Enchanted by her first year of farm life, Kim Haas leans out the door to notify her husband Davis of the birth of kittens. A town girl, Kim was a high school sweetheart of Davis, a farmer’s son, and married him in 1974. She moved into a whole new kind of life, helping care for 1,300 chickens, 200 cattle, 140 hogs and the kittens. She loves it.

Photo by Bill Marr.

Jean Schnelle keeps working, even when going into the yard to share a few words with husband Harold to ask when the men will be ready for dinner. Balancing six-months-old son Dwight on her hip, she manages to pull some weeds out of the planter. She’s a true vice president in an apron.

Photo by Michelle Bogre.

Mowing the lawn is just one of the chores farm wife Edith Gaddy handles. Most of the day hers is the typical farm wife’s fare of caring for the house, preparing meals, taking the children somewhere, or running to town for a spare part.

Photo by Michelle Bogre.

It’s not unusual for Mrs. Ben Henry to lift 50-pound bags of shoat ration to fill the pig feeders. Taking care of livestock is second nature for some farm women, who are already busy taking care of children.

Photo by Duane Dailey.

At the end of the day, or when weather grinds outdoor work to a halt, it’s a chance to get some odd jobs out of the way. Gary Hansford called on his friends and had his hair cut by Mrs. Glen Patrick, the wife of a friend.

Photo by Michelle Bogre.

At night after a hard day’s work and a good dinner, Walter Bracht reads the paper and watches television. Tomorrow will be another tough day.

Photo by Michelle Bogre.

Children never lack for things to do on the farm. There are as many chores as a body can handle. Parents see to that. The message seems to be: you might as well learn early that you have to work hard in life.

Yet, knowing there is a lifetime of work ahead, farm parents are willing to let the children have some time to be just children. Then the whole farm is a plaything that can be endlessly subdivided into smaller playthings, which can be reassembled and built into different playthings.

There are tractors and trucks to drive and a variety of pets to play with. There is school, of course, but when school is out and the chores are done, you can ride your own horse across the fields and feel the wind in your face. And you are free.

A spreader filled with clean straw is really a PT boat and your cousin Robert Bland is steering it and your brother Johnny Leal Jr., 4, is shooting down enemy aircraft with his slingshot. And you, Jimmy, 3, are looking to see where the crippled aircraft will fall.

Photo by Dana Downie.

Learning to be a wrangler can be a toughening experience. When calf and boy tangle, sometimes the calf wins.

Photo by George Robinson.

Roll out the barrel is only a sometime thing during potato harvest in Maine. Most of the time, those youngsters are filling the barrels with potatoes just dug out of the ground.

Photo by George Robinson.

Family schedules and lives revolve around the school bus. Chores are undoubtedly waiting for Lisa and Frank McCann of Cascade, Idaho, but right now there’s a puddle to be vaulted, or stepped in, depending on your mood.

Photo by Nicholas deVore.

It’s great to be a farm girl with your own horse, and acres of open land. Mary Ann Martens of Anthony, Kansas, and her horse Taffy, blend together, exemplifying the spirit of the great outdoors that is the legend of rural America.

Photo by Bill Marr.

Farmers are tuned in wherever they are. Electronics takes care of that. Farmers in the most remote sections keep up on markets all over the world. They watch television news and judge for themselves about current events beyond their community concerns. The youngsters know all the latest song hits that the radio waves can handle.

Greg Hall takes music with him wherever he goes with an AM radio receiver he converted to handle both AM and FM. Observes Greg: “I don’t know how anyone could stand driving a tractor all day without headphones.”

Photo by Michelle Bogre.

Randall Jones finds guitar music pleasant company during the long days and nights of Alaska.

Photo by Charles O’Rear.

Family time is music making at the piano for Henry B. Perry, grandson Desmond Lowe, and brother-in-law Rozell Kendrick at their farm in Hardaway, Alabama.

Photo by Shepard Sherbell.

Another farm is gone. The terminal ritual is an auction. The vibrancy that was a going farm, and a house filled with life and laughter, have been reduced to a few material items offered to the highest bidder.

The auctioneer’s sing-song chant is a familiar requiem in rural America as farmers retire, die or just “go away.” The 2.8 million farms in 1975 are only half the number of 25 years ago. But change is inevitable.

Photo by Byron Schumaker.

The farms that remain are larger, more prosperous, more durable. The loss of 22,000 farms nationally in 1975 was only one-tenth the decline in farm numbers in 1950.

Memorial Day is an important day for respectful memories in rural America. The Jack Roark family places flowers on a grave in the Adams Cemetery.

Photo by Bill Marr.

Basic beliefs play a major role in farm lives. Mrs. J. Brewer Bottorff pauses beside a meaningful quotation. Nobody can go through an endless chain of farm births and growth and harvests— and be subject to nature’s mysteries, bounty, and sometimes harshness—without developing a philosophy of life.

Photo by Bill Marr.

The sun should always shine on weddings. At the Hargis-Morton wedding on a Saturday in June the reception line gathers in the shade. Weddings top family events as major occasions among close-knit farm people.

Photo by Bill Marr.

When fire destroyed Ron and Jane Nipple’s dairy barn, near Millerstown, Pa., neighbors set aside several consecutive Saturdays to rebuild their barn. The sturdy oak timbers were home-grown.

Photo by Fred Witte.

Thanksgiving and apple butter just go together naturally when it’s Fall in Virginia and there’s plenty of both apples and turkeys.

Photo by Marianne Pernold.

There’s still a lot of preparin’ to do (and paring, in the case of Billy Kipps, below). Helping Billy are other members of the Kipps family: Ward, Barbara and Luther.

Photo by Marianne Pernold.

Part of making the apple butter is stirring the apples in a steaming cauldron outdoors. Waiting for the festive dinner to begin, Anne Kipps arranges plants by the window.

Photo by Marianne Pernold.

Finally there is Thanksgiving dinner— in one of the first states to celebrate that observance centuries before. Farm families—though they use modern management procedures and machinery—hold firmly to tradition. It’s a feeling that comes with the land . . . along with spontaneous expressions of thanksgiving.

There are so many elements beyond the farmer’s control which affect his livelihood and well-being. When the harvest is in and it’s been a good one, then it’s time to enjoy some of the fruits of the labor, and to be thankful, as the Kipps are doing.

Photo by Marianne Pernold.

All America can be thankful for her abundance of food.

Photo by Marianne Pernold.
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